Morris Engel Dead at 86


Morris Engel (with wife and collaborator Ruth Orkin)

The following story is from The Associated Press:

Morris Engel, a noted photographer and pioneer in independent filmmaking who was best known for his Oscar-nominated 1953 film, "Little Fugitive," has died at age 86, his family said Monday.

Engel died of cancer on Saturday at his Manhattan apartment, said Mary Engel, his daughter and the archivist for the body of work done by him and his late wife, photographer Ruth Orkin.

Engel, born in Brooklyn in 1918, first studied photography as a teenager. He had his first show in 1939, worked briefly for the newspaper PM and covered the 1944 invasion of Normandy as a Navy photographer.



In postwar years he became an established figure in commercial and magazine photography, before branching out into moviemaking.

His "Little Fugitive," about a 7-year-old boy who runs away after mistakenly thinking he has killed his older brother, was an innovative work of cinematic realism, costing $30,000 and shot with a handheld 35-millimeter camera that Engel and a colleague designed.

The film won the Silver Lion award at the 1953 Venice Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar in 1954. It also was widely credited with inspiring other independent filmmakers, including directors John Cassavetes and Francois Truffaut, to develop projects that went against the grain of Hollywood.

Truffaut, a French film critic, said he borrowed themes and filming techniques from Engel's work for his 1959 film, "The 400 Blows," which was credited with launching French cinema's New Wave.

Engel, with his wife, made two other independent films, "Lovers and Lollipops" in 1955 and "Weddings and Babies" in 1958, both dealing with family and domestic themes. He also made "I Need a Ride to California," about hippie travels, which was never released, in 1968 and two later documentaries.

"Little Fugitive" has recently been remade by writer-director Joanna Lipper, with Mary Engel as co-producer.

3 comments:

swac said...

I was going to put something up about this, but I have been able to post anything for a few days now. I'm sure the problem is widespread across the Blogger system (when I tried to leave a comment on a friend's page I got a message saying "The blog you are looking for has not been found." WTF? I found it, why can't you?)

Engel certainly deserves praise as one of the earliest "indie" American filmmakers (there are other examples, especially from the silent days, but few with the same impact or ability). I'm wondering if Engel was an acquaintance of Kubrick from around the same time. Both established photographers, both burgeoning filmmakers, both New York based. It'd be interesting if their paths had crossed...

Rob said...

Yes I noticed the blog problem, as well, and got that same msg. Hopefully, all is cured.

I would love to see "I Need a Ride to California," Wonder if it will ever see the light. "Little Fugitive" was one of the first indie films I saw in school, and it made quite an impression. I haven't seen it for years, and wonder if my perceptions would be the same.

BCNU

Tom Sutpen said...

Stephen asked:

I'm wondering if Engel was an acquaintance of Kubrick from around the same time. Both established photographers, both burgeoning filmmakers, both New York based. It'd be interesting if their paths had crossed...

*****
More than likely they did. In his days as a staffer for 'Look', Kubrick was fairly ubiquitous on the fringes of New York's arts/journalism scene (he numbered among his friends in those days Diane Arbus and Gordon Parks, jr.), so running into Morris Engel isn't out of the question at all.